An estimated 57.3 million Americans freelanced last year, according a recent study. Yet, the term “freelancer” still has an undeniable stigma. There is a persistent belief that certain roles and responsibilities are simply too important or too complex to be given to an outside contractor.
Is this really the case? Particularly within the financial and accounting spaces, there are many situations where your company may need an expert, but only for a few hours a week. Or, maybe only fractionally.
Hiring a freelance professional makes the most sense. You get expertise at a fraction of the cost of a salaried employee, for only the projects that you need. You can more easily plan your growth and you don’t need to commit to a full-time hire.
Related: How to never meet your accountant
Instead many small and midsize companies struggle along, asking their current employees to perform tasks for which they don’t have the proper training. If this sounds familiar, this practice is likely hurting your business. So, why the hesitance to hire a freelancer?
Maybe you’ve bought into some of the freelancer myths. Don’t let hearsay negatively influence your decision-making about the next step in your company’s growth.
Five Myths About Freelancers
Myth #1: Most freelancers can’t get a full-time job; they’re the leftovers who’d rather be doing something other than working on your project.
Everyone wants PTO, healthcare benefits and the stability of a “real” job, right? In that sense, aren’t freelancers a type of failed office worker?
Reality #1: Freelancers are people who want to work for themselves and take control of their work life; most could easily get a full-time role.
Freelancers are simply those who have opted for a different work model. Don’t let your preconceptions cloud your opinion of a valuable source of skilled labor.
In a recent survey commissioned by Upwork and the Freelancers Union, half of all respondents said there was no amount of money where they would take a traditional job, rather than freelance. And, 63% of respondents started freelancing by choice, not out of necessity.
Myth #2: A freelancer is someone who doesn’t want to work hard, and who covers for themselves by claiming to be freelance.
Anyone can say they’re a freelancer, but actually earning a living in their chosen profession is a far different proposition. How do you know when someone is a fake? Ask for samples and references to quickly sift out the pretenders.
Reality #2: Freelancing is highly competitive.
A successful freelancer has worked hard to build their career. Someone who has a demonstrated track record has beaten out numerous competitors for contract jobs and has consistently met or exceeded expectations. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have steady work or a roster of regular clients.
Related: About our experts
Myth #3: Freelancers aren’t reliable and won’t meet your deadlines.
When you first hire a freelancer, it can feel like there is a thin connection between you and them. You are not providing benefits, or an office, or a salary, so why should they care about your company? Are they really going to give you their best work?
Reality #3: Happy clients are the lifeblood of a successful freelance career.
A freelancer’s best strategy for building a successful business relationship is to meet your project goals, to your specifications, with value added throughout. You are the client, after all. If you’re unhappy, you can go elsewhere without the messy off-boarding process involved in terminating a full-time employee. Freelancers are very aware of this; they will want to demonstrate their value to your business.
Myth #4: Freelancers lack creativity or big ideas.
Visionaries and true creatives don’t strike it out alone, do they? Of course, they do. Visionaries from Frank Lloyd Wright to the Wright brothers worked independently of a corporation on major projects that showed tangible creativity and innovative results.
Reality #4: Freelancers most likely have a broader variety of relevant recent experience than your salaried employees.
Freelancers work for multiple companies simultaneously. They are often asked to solve problems that cannot be solved internally. You should be asking your freelancer’s opinions on creative solutions to your business problems, not just tapping their technical skill. If you aren’t drawing on the scope of that insight, you are missing a major opportunity.
Myth #5: There is no real way to hold freelancers accountable since they work on their own schedule.
This fear shouldn’t be unique to onboarding freelancers. Every company has experienced underperforming permanent employees, who sap the culture, handicap productivity and cannot be motivated. A poor hire is a poor hire, but it has very little to do if someone is a freelancer.
Reality #5: Contracts are meaningful and professionals have their reputation at stake.
Before a freelance contract is given, you should mutually agree on a statement of work that includes project benchmarks and deliverables. This is enforceable and you can withhold payment until it is achieved. Freelancers are professionals whose careers depends on their reputation. It is in their best interest to be highly accountable.
What to Expect with a Freelancer
When you hire a freelancer, you are hiring someone with a demonstrable track record of quality work and proven client-relationship skills. If that weren’t the case, they wouldn’t be able to make a living at what they do.
You also have someone who is incredibly resourceful. A freelancer knows how to run a successful business – their own. That added moxie can provide a lot. For example, 65% of full-time freelancers update their skills to keep abreast of the market, compared to only 45% of non-freelancers, according to a recent survey.
This adaptability and commitment to their craft will be apparent in the quality of their work and the perspicacity of their insights. If you haven’t yet hired a freelancer, you owe it to yourself – and your business – to shelve your preconceptions and seriously consider it.